BANGKOK — Facebook celebs aren’t just for entertainment anymore. Some of the most popular ones are now part of a suicide prevention initiative and have saved the lives of more than 60 people since the beginning of 2020, mental health officials said Tuesday.
At least 60 suicides have been thwarted thanks to the program that allows people to send in suicide alerts of known loved ones to the participating Facebook pages, who in turn contact local police to intervene, mental health department spokesman Varoth Chotpitayasunondh said Tuesday.
“The problem we’re currently facing is that there are so many people posting about killing themselves on social media, and the people seeing are their close friends and family,” Varoth said by phone today. “This was the loophole we’re trying to close with that system.”
“The Department of Mental Health can’t scan all social media pages, but people online can,” he said. “They can then alert the influencers, who then tell the police. This is a new kind of three-force task force. I think it’s the first of its kind in the world. We’re still piloting it and laying out the system.”
Varoth said the program will be formally launched on World Mental Health Day Oct. 10 at an event at the Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre.
Mhor Lab Panda posted on their Facebook Monday about how they were able to help alert police in time to intervene in a suicide attempt in Samut Prakan due to a tip-off sent to the page.
“If you see anyone posting about killing themselves, please inform me or Drama-addict page. It would be best if you had their detailed location,” Mhor Lab Panda wrote. “This case in Samut Prakan, police were able to arrive there in time and save their life.”
Police Maj. Gen. Jirapop Phuridech announced the initiative on World Suicide Prevention Day Sept. 10 at the Department of Mental Health.
According to the department, there has been a 22 percent increase in suicides during the COVID-19 pandemic. Facebook groups that advocate self-harm, and even suicides streamed on Facebook Live are also increasingly common, according to health officials.
The social media pages do not act as mental health hotlines that offer consolation for the suicidal. Instead, the pages will allow people to report in when they see social media accounts posting about self-harm online.
“This initiative does what hotlines can’t, which is going deep into peoples’ online world,” Nattakorn Jampathong, head of the National Suicide Prevention Center said. “Hotlines are still needed, of course, but a lot of people on social media are seeing this content in front of their eyes and can’t do anything,”
“I believe this is a good initiative, and I hope people keep sending in more alerts.”
Suicide hotlines in Thailand are often overrun by a high number of callers, including the mental health hotline at 1323. The Samaritans Thailand usually have only three volunteers manning their phones at any one time.
If you are thinking about suicide, call the mental health hotline at 1323, toll-free and available all 24 hours. A woman answering the phone said that during daytime hours they have 15 people working the phones, and five at night. Some callers can engage in limited English.
If you live far from urban hospitals and wish to receive counseling or treatment, contact your Subdistrict Health Promotion Hospital (โรงพยาบาลส่งเสริมสุขภาพตำบล), or alert a local Aor Sor Mor health volunteer.